Two Sides of a Coin

I met a guy a from Vietnam a few weeks ago. His family moved to Winnipeg as refugees at some point in his childhood and he got into trouble with gangs in his teenage years and ended up in trouble with the law. As we made small talk I said that I am married to a man from Laos, a neighboring country to Vietnam. He perked up and was quite surprised. He asked me the usual questions, how did you meet, how long have you been together etc. And then he asked me if Pasith had ever been in trouble. I was taken aback by the question and said, “No.” And began to tell him how Pasith made it through school. I told him that there had always been a lot of bullies and descrimination throughout school. Pasith had always felt that he had to prove himself. Pasith had started lifting weights in grade 10 and that had prevented a lot of the issues in highschool. But Pasith had always felt that he had to prove that he could handle himself. He had backed down from a lot of fights because he didn’t believe in fighting but he had to be sure that he could defend himself. I told him how Pasith’s Dad had taught him how to fight. Pasith’s name means “fighter” in Laos. It has always been in his nature whether he was standing up for himself or someone else that was being bullied. I also told him that Pasith has always had a temper but he knew where to draw the line. He knew he had the potential to really hurt someone but knew that it wouldn’t be worth the dissapointment of his parents along with the fact that he didn’t want to hurt other people.

This guy asked me how Pasith was able to make it out. I said that we were in a small town. We didn’t grow up in the city. He looked at me in complete seriousness and said, “That small town saved his life. Be sure to tell him how lucky he is.” I told him that Pasith hadn’t always felt lucky to be in a small town. He had felt like he was missing out on opportunities. But his parents felt it was better for the boys to be in a small town. Pasith had always begrudged the fact that they didn’t live in the city. This guy shook his head and said, “He was very fortunate to have parents that cared to live in the small town. The city is trouble. He sounds a lot like me and I don’t think he would’ve gotten out so easy.”

Then he asked me how long we had been married and how many children we have. The look of longing on his face was painful. I could see all the regrets and the what-ifs going through his mind as he listened to me. He expressed how much he wished he could have our life. And again said to tell Pasith how lucky he was.

So I went home and told Pasith about who I had met and what he had said. He looked at me, thought about it and said, “He’s probably right. I would be a very different person if I had grown up in the city with the pressure of gangs and anger. I guess my parents knew what they were doing and I’m thankful. But I still hated it.”

It’s amazing to see how close we come to the other side. There is such a fine line, one decision, one person saying one thing between who we are and the potential for either good or bad choices.

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